Kathy Bechtel, founder of Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine shares her recommendations
Chef Tony Lavelle and his team use organic, locally sourced ingredients to create Solo Bistro’s lunches and dinners.
Lobster is a ubiquitous fixture on many Maine restaurant menus. American lobster is big business in Maine, where the catch exceeded 100 million pounds and generated close to $331 million in 2011, according to the Maine Lobster Council.
See Where to Eat in Maine If You Don’t Like Lobster Slideshow
While lobster season is at its height from June to December, the crustacean is caught year-round and served in every conceivable way, from steamed with drawn butter to stuffed in a lobster roll.
But what is a traveler in Maine to do if he or she doesn’t like lobster or is vegetarian? Kathy Bechtel, founder of Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine, who divides her time between Newburyport, Mass., and Sugarloaf, Maine, shares her recommendations for where to eat in Maine if you don’t like lobster.
Lauren Mack is the Travel Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.
For visitors and locals alike, ordering a fresh Maine lobster is a quintessential New England summer experience, but if this happens to be your first time ordering, you’re likely to be lost on how to get started when it comes to eating one.
Fortunately, at Weathervane Seafood Restaurants, we serve up approximately 200,000 lbs. of steamed Maine lobsters each year and our service staff knows the secret to the often asked question: How do you eat a fresh Maine lobster and what’s the proper lobster eating technique?
Since 1969, when Ray and Bea Gagner opened their first seafood stand, Ray, also known as “Pa,” has provided us his easy to follow, six-step technique. So let’s learn from Pa:
Step One: Pa Always Puts a Bib On. You’ll See Why Soon.
You may be worried about etiquette when eating your lobster, but this is not always the most polished of practices. Eating a fresh steamed lobster will require you to use both hands and once you start cracking, you’ll see that the tender lobster meat is quite juicy and tastiest when dipped in hot drawn butter.
Step Two: He Twists the Claws Off. Very Hot Juice Inside!
The easiest place to start is with the two claws. From the knuckle at the lobster’s body, you’ll easily be able to twist and pop the claws off. The claws tend to be the juiciest parts of the lobster since they collect the steamy salt water when cooking.
Step Three: Pa Cracks Each Claw with His Nutcracker.
Using the nutcracker, clamp down firmly along the claw until the sides of the shell crack. This will allow you to break the claw open and pull the lobster meat out using your lobster fork. Typically the entire piece of claw meat will come out in one piece.
Step Four: He Breaks Off the Tail and Removes the Tail Fins.
Now here’s where it starts to get interesting! Holding the lobster firmly in both hands, you can twist the tail completely apart from the lobster’s upper body. Each of the tail fins can be plucked off of the tail and they contain small pieces of tasty meat.
Step Five: Pa Uses a Lobster Pick to Push the Tail Meat Out.
During the cooking process, the lobster’s tail will firm and curl. Using your lobster pick, you can gently push the tail meat through and it will come out whole. Lobster tail meat has great flavor, so be sure to dip the meat in your drawn butter before enjoying.
Step Six: Pa says, “There’s Plenty of Meat in the Body… Crack the Shell Apart Sideways.”
You’re not done yet! If you want to eat your lobster like a true “New Englander,” you have to continue on to the meat found within the legs and body. Each of the lobster legs will snap off easily and you can suck the lobster meat right out. The gray/greenish substance found in the inside of the lobster’s body is the lobster’s liver—or the tomalley. The tomalley is edible, however it’s typically only enjoyed by the most diehard of lobster fans.
At the end of the day, you’ll find that most people adopt their own personalized approach on how to eat a Maine lobster, but there is a lot of how-to advice out there — so make the experience your own and don’t be afraid to get a little messy! Or, if all the work seems too daunting of a task, you can always opt for the classic Lobster Roll or let us do the work and order the Lazy Man Lobster, available at all our Weathervane locations.
For more tips, local marine-related news, and seafood recipes, remember to stay connected with Weathervane’s blog. Or browse our menu and come join us for some of New England’s favorite seafood!
17 Must-Try Foods in Maine That Aren’t Lobster Rolls
Disclaimer: I am not from Maine. I am, in fact, from Tokyo. However, I went to Maine this summer to visit my boyfriend, a real “Maine-r” and was struck by all the delicious food.
Here’s a list that I compiled with his expertise and opinions of the places you have to go in Maine. As a Maine tourist who ate at several of these restaurants, I can say with 100 percent confidence that if you live in Maine, you NEED to eat here. If you don’t live in Maine, you have to go to Maine and eat at these restaurants.
Butternut Squash, Ricotta & Cranberry Pizza from OTTO Pizza
Photo courtesy of @nickynonaps on Instagram
An unusual mix of butternut squash, ricotta cheese, and cranberries is not something you might regularly expect to see on a pizza but OTTO just makes it work. It’s pretty much a Thanksgiving leftover party in your mouth, with a beautiful thin crust and the perfect mix of sweet and savory.
Lobster Diavolo from Street & Co.
Photo by Sayuri Sekimitsu
Lobster Diavolo is THE PERFECT dish to get in Portland, Maine. A unique blend of flavors and spices with a split lobster on a bed of pasta. Diavolo means “devil” in Italian, but this dish is heavenly. The richness of the lobster pairs perfectly with the light tomato sauce.
Half Dozen Damariscotta Oysters from J’s Oyster
Photo courtesy of @psyman42 on Instagram
Damariscotta, Maine is a small, small town with a population of 2,000 people. With a town name that means “village of little fish,” it’s no surprise that Damariscotta oysters are perfectly briny and sweet. J’s Oyster prepares them simply, to better enjoy the deep, fresh flavors.
Maine Blueberry Smoothie from Maine Squeeze
Photo by Sayuri Sekimitsu
The Maine Squeeze was pretty much my home for the eight days I was in Portland. I tried four different smoothies (all of which were AMAZING), but the Maine Blueberry came up on top. Made with banana, blueberry, mint, and apple cider, it is a refreshingly healthy treat.
Honestly, I only went in because of the witty name but came out satisfied and hungry for more. (P.S. If you have multiple days, I also recommend the DreamTeam with dark chocolate, peanuts, almonds, coconut, bananas, and dates.)
Full Lobster from The Lobster Shack at Two Lights
Photo courtesy of @daniellekroeger on Instagram
This one seems a little self-explanatory. You just have to eat a full lobster from Portland, Maine. End of story.
House Smoked Pork Belly Sandwich with Kimchi, Pickled Asian Pear & Steak Fries from East Ender
Photo courtesy of @siobhancsmith on Instagram
Where to begin with this amazing sandwich? First of all, the combination of the ingredients: pork belly, kimchi, and Asian pear on a perfectly toasted Brioche bun. I’m not the biggest pork belly fan but this sandwich blew me away with its complex fusion of flavors ranging from sweet and savory, to spicy. 10/10, would recommend to a friend.
Maine Wild Blueberry Jam from Stonewall Kitchen
Photo courtesy of @stonewallkitchen on Instagram
You may have seen Stonewall Kitchen in your local supermarkets but you may not have known that Stonewall Kitchen is originally based in York, Maine. You may also not have known that if you go to a local Stonewall Kitchen store, you can sample all their jams, sauces, and syrups for days. Unlimited samples? Sign me up. And I couldn’t make a list about foods in Maine without talking about the succulent, sweet Maine blueberries.
Malted Cold Brew from Tandem Coffee Roasters
Photo courtesy of mainetoday.com
As college students, coffee runs in our veins but I bet that many have never tried a malted coffee. It’s cold brew coffee with malt extract and milk over ice. It’s half soda fountain, half coffee in your mouth. It wins the most original coffee (that doesn’t taste weird) award in my books. Plus, the cafe is in a renovated old gas station. It is a perfect place to sip coffee and do work.
Baklava from Emilitsa
Photo courtesy of Benny R. from yelp.com
Oh, Emilitsa. Your tzatziki and kotopoulo souvlaki (chicken skewers) are calling me back from Stanford. I’ve been to Greece before and Emilitsa’s Greek food is just as flavorful and delicious. Every dish is painstakingly made with the perfect combination of spices and all-natural whole ingredients. The cherry on the top was definitely this delicious flaky pastry for dessert.
The Peacemaker and Fried Pickles from Po’ Boys & Pickles
Photo courtesy of @kristenmichellexo on Instagram
This fun dive is a New Orleans-themed restaurant in Maine. It’s always blasting BB King songs and other Southern soul music. You’ll feel like you’re walking down Bourbon St. with a Peacemaker, a mix of fried shrimp and oyster, lettuce, tomato, and red pepper mayo, in your hand. add a Thai tea shake and praline bacon on the side.
#SpoonTip: Add a Thai tea shake and praline bacon on the side.
Maple Bacon Donut from The Holy Donut
Photo courtesy of @afogartyphoto on Instagram
The Holy Donut has a secret ingredient: fresh Maine potatoes. Yes, it is a potato donut. This donut joint emphasizes their wholesome ingredients, fresh flavors, and unique combinations. I had the honor of trying the maple bacon donut (middle donut in the picture) which was almost a religious experience. The saltiness of the bacon jives perfectly with the maple, and the whole donut was deliciously moist.
Plus, they give back to the Portland community by donating their leftovers to Preble Street, a community center that provides help to those less fortunate in Portland. If you are in Maine looking to get amazing food, also take the time to donate or volunteer at Preble Street which does so much to help those in need.
Homemade Sausage Sub from Spring Creek Bar-B-Q
Photo courtesy of @slaintemccarthy on Instagram
Spring Creek Bar-B-Q is the last supply point for hikers attempting the 100 Mile Wilderness, a 100 mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail that is considered the most dangerous to navigate. So, hikers who are eating here are serious eaters.
They have items on the menu like “Bucket O’ Pork” or 1/2 lb Prime Rib, but for those of us who aren’t looking to hike, the homemade sausage sub with onions and peppers is the perfect thing. You can also people-watch all the hikers getting in their last meal as you enjoy your crunchy, flavorful sub.
Ol’ Blue Eyes Donut Bites from Urban Sugar
Photo courtesy of @cbridge78 on Instagram
Ol’ Blue Eyes Donuts. Here are ten words for you: mini donuts, lavender pastry cream, lemon curd, and Nilla crumble. Urban Sugar is a food truck that rolls around Portland, selling mini donuts in a range of different flavors.
My favorite was easily the Ol’ Blue Eye Donuts. A lil’ bit of crunch, a lil’ bit of sour, a lil’ bit of sweet is perfection. All the donuts are made to order so you may wait a little longer, but there is nothing better than a freshly prepared mini donut.
Vanilla S’mores from The Marshmallow Cart
Photo courtesy of @themarshmallowcart on Instagram
Ok, so what’s a s’more doing on this list? I found the Marshmallow Cart when we were walking around the First Friday Art Walk in Portland. It’s kind of like a food truck but it’s on a cart that they wheel around Portland.They make their own marshmallows, with flavors like root beer, vanilla, and strawberry. They don’t look like Rocky Road marshmallows, that’s for sure.
They assemble your s’more right in front of your eyes, and melt the marshmallow until it gets to that perfect golden brown AND they use homemade graham crackers. Easily the best s’more I’ve ever had.
Sauerkraut from Morses’ Sauerkraut
Photo courtesy of @redpink52 on Instagram
Morses’ Sauerkraut has been around since 1918 so almost 100 years. Morses’ is a place that Mainers know and love, with their briny, crispy, crunchy sauerkraut. It has no preservatives and is packed fresh every day, with good bacteria and probiotics that improve digestion, improve circulation, and strengthen the heart. It’s pretty much a superfood.
Poutine with a Sunny Side Up Egg from Duckfat
Photo courtesy of @forkyeahnyc on Instagram
This picture practically speaks for itself, but the poutine at Duckfat is phenomenal. Bursting with flavor and crunch, the combination of french fries with duck fat, duck gravy, and melted cheese curds is like a dream.
#SpoonTip: Add the sunny side up egg.
Brown Butter Lobster Roll from Eventide Oyster Co.
Photo courtesy of @eventideoyster on Instagram.com
As you know, Maine is famous for their delicious lobster rolls, so you have to try at least one while you’re there, and Eventide’s brown butter lobster rolls stood out to me as particularly delicious.
They were made on Asian steamed buns instead of the standard hot dog bun, so biting into one is like biting into a succulent soft pillow. The brown butter really brings out the sweetness of the lobster. You will leave in a happy, food-induced coma. Guaranteed.
#SpoonTip: Add the Testarossa cocktail with tequila, jalapeño, and blood orange soda.
If this didn’t convince you to fly to Maine immediately, I don’t know what will. Maine might have a reputation for delicious lobster rolls but their culinary culture is so much deeper than that. With an overall emphasis on whole foods and natural ingredients, Maine respects their environment but creatively plays with ingredients they have to produce beautiful-looking and delicious-tasting meals, whether it be lobster rolls, donuts, pasta, sandwiches, or fries. For even more New England foods you can’t miss, check these out.
The Maine Meal: Where to Eat in the Pine Tree State
Make the most of Maine with these 15 iconic regional dishes (and the best places to try each one).
Photo By: Hello Neighbor Designs
Photo By: Crissy's Breakfast & Coffee Bar
Photo By: DiMillo's on the Water
Photo By: Zack Bowen, Knack Factory
Photo By: Bob's Clam Hut ©2012, Ted Axelrod
Photo By: Governor's Restaurant
Photo By: Dolphin Marina & Restaurant
Photo By: Warren's Lobster House
Photo By: Central Provisions
The Best Meals in Maine
If you visit Maine thinking lobster is all there is to eat, you're missing out on a bounty of classic dishes and drinks with roots that range from Canadian to Colonial. The state's natural bounty stretches from the sea — haddock, clams and the famed crustacean — inland to towering maples, blueberry bushes and potato fields. But don't worry, lobster lovers: We have plenty of tips for you, too.
Clambake: Eventide Oyster Co. (Portland)
In Maine, a celebration calls for a clambake. Shellfish is steamed over layers of seaweed, building flavors of sea on sea. Eventide Oyster’s clambake features sweet Bangs Island mussels and plump steamers from nearby Casco Bay, plus lobster tail, Maine potatoes, salt pork and an egg, all snug in a seafood nest. Why an egg? Traditionally, it was added as a temperature monitor: Once the egg was cooked hard, it was time to eat. This tiny Portland gem lets you dine at a picnic-style table, but without having to wade into the water to fish out the mollusks first.
Lobster Pie: Maine Diner (Wells)
Each lobster pie at the Maine Diner includes nearly 5 ounces of locally caught tail, claw and knuckle meat, capped with a buttery Ritz cracker and lobster tomalley topping. The owners’ family recipe is one of its most-popular dishes: On some days the kitchen bakes more than 100 pies. There’s often a line for a seat in the summer and on weekends, but, thankfully, the owners also ship the pies in single-serve ramekins.
Blueberry Pancakes: Crissy's Breakfast & Coffee Bar (Damariscotta)
Maine’s official fruit is the wild blueberry, prized for its antioxidant power. The state is the largest supplier of the nation’s low-bush blueberries, which are smaller and more flavorful than their cultivated cousins and perfect for baking. Crissy's Breakfast & Coffee Bar packs as many tiny Maine berries as possible into their billowy pancakes, serving the dish with organic maple syrup from Strawberry Hill Farm in Skowhegan.
Lobster Roll: Red’s Eats (Wiscasset)
Steamed Lobster Dinner: DiMillo's on the Water (Portland)
Few images resonate more with people “from away” (how Mainers refer to all non-natives) than a bright red lobster with melted butter. The lobsters at family-owned DiMillo's on the Water, a floating restaurant housed in a former car ferry on Long Wharf in Portland, are all purchased within a mile of the kitchen. Steamed single or double lobster dinners have been the restaurant’s mainstay for decades, and the unique setting and campy decor make dining here even more memorable.
Maine Potato Fries: Duckfat (Portland)
Maine is one of the top potato-producing states in the country, and many schools in the northern part of the state still close for tuber harvest. Duckfat in Portland is a great place to try the fries, made with Norwis Cross tubers grown at Green Thumb Farm in Fryeburg. The restaurant pays homage to Maine’s Franco-American heritage by offering its duck fat-fried thatch with a poutine option — smothered in two types of cheese curds and duck gravy. Add a milk shake made with Gelato Fiasco vanilla gelato, creme anglaise and Tahitian vanilla, and it’s a meal.
Baked Beans & Hot Dogs: Dysart's Restaurant & Truck Stop (Hermon)
In Maine, beans are served on Saturday nights, from grange halls to churches. At Dysart’s Restaurant and Truck Stop in Hermon, you can order Maine yellow eye beans and classic locally made frankfurters, called Maine Red Snappers, anytime, day or night. Snowbirds (folks who go south for the winter) load up on the bright red dogs before their travels, as they’re tough to find outside of New England. Don’t pass up the house-baked molasses bread.
Clam Roll: Bob's Clam Hut (Kittery)
In 2015, Bob’s Clam Hut served nearly 10,000 crispy clam rolls alongside Route 1 in Kittery. Clams are available two ways: Bob’s style, in which whole belly clams are dredged in a corn-and-white-flour blend, and Lillian’s — named for a longtime employee who passed away in 2013 —in which the clams get a milk-and-egg wash before frying. The clams are then piled atop a buttered, flattop-grilled, split-top hot dog roll and served with a savory tartar sauce developed 60 years ago by original owner Bob Kraft.
Moxie and Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy: Great Lost Bear (Portland)
Maine has two emblematic beverages, each of which is an acquired taste. The first is Moxie, the nation’s first soda — a bitter brew created in Lisbon. The second is Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy, which sits atop the state’s list of best-selling alcoholic beverages despite being produced in (gasp!) Massachusetts. Allen’s is often jokingly referred to as the Champagne of Maine. Portland bar the Great Lost Bear combines the two in a sweet, coffee-tinged cocktail called the Burnt Trailer — a hit drink for the past decade, served over ice in a pint glass.
Whoopie Pies: Governor’s Restaurant (Various Locations)
Pennsylvania may lay claim to whoopie pies, but Maine has a long history with these cakey confections. You will find freshly baked whoopies everywhere from gas station counters to fine-dining dessert lists. Governor’s Restaurant uses a recipe from its founders, Leith and Donna Wadleigh, to create whoopies that are heavy on cocoa and have a filling rich with butter, confectioners’ sugar and Marshmallow Fluff. The combination has helped Governor’s score repeat victories at the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival. The restaurant also bakes peanut butter-filled whoopies and seasonal flavors such as maple bacon, root beer float and strawberry rhubarb.
Haddock Chowder: Dolphin Marina & Restaurant (Harpswell)
Fish soups in Maine are ruled by the ubiquitous haddock. The fish’s mild flavor and thick flakes make it the perfect base for hearty chowders. For 50 years, people have patiently waited out the winter for the version served at Dolphin Marina, a seasonal restaurant in South Harpswell with a panoramic view of Casco Bay. This chowder is laden with onion, potato, clam, cream and local haddock, and every bowl comes with a blueberry muffin for a one-two Maine punch.
Italian Sandwich: Amato’s (Various Locations)
The Maine Italian was born on the streets of Portland in the early 1900s. Giovanni Amato would push a cart past the town’s docks, selling the sandwiches to hungry fishermen. He later opened a shop and served his style of “Italians” for decades. The sandwich starts with a long, soft roll that’s sliced lengthwise and stuffed with ham, cheese, pickles, raw onions, green peppers, black olives and tomatoes, then topped with oil dressing. It’s remained largely unchanged for a century. Today you can order the salty, wax-paper-wrapped sandwiches across New England and New York.
Indian Pudding: Warren’s Lobster House (Kittery)
In this New England adaptation of hasty pudding, cornmeal and molasses are cooked in milk, with ginger and cinnamon. The dish is served piping hot and capped with vanilla ice cream at Warren’s Lobster House in Kittery, a sprawling 76-year-old restaurant that opened as a six-stool lobster shop in 1940 and sits atop wooden pilings along the Piscataqua River in southern Maine. It’s prepared in-house and available year-round, which is ideal, because it beats the chill on a Maine winter day.
New England Boiled Dinner: Moody's Diner (Waldoboro)
Another hearty traditional meal is the New England Boiled Dinner — or classic meat and potatoes. At Moody’s Diner in Waldoboro, every Thursday is Boiled Dinner Night. Cooks boil raw brisket and serve it with steamed local turnips, cabbage, carrots and potatoes as well as hot, buttered canned beets. Why Thursdays? “For an 88-year-old diner, this is how we have always done it and there is no reason to change,” said General Manager and President Dan Beck.
Maple Sugar and Syrup: Central Provisions (Portland)
Maine’s robust maple industry isn’t just about syrup — the state’s mature maple trees are also tapped for sugar. Central Provisions in Portland uses the sweetener as the backbone of its Fall Old Fashioned, combined with black walnut and Angostura bitters and stirred with a newer local crop – Gunpowder rye whiskey, distilled at nearby New England Distilling. The rustic restaurant was a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant of the Year award, and also features Maine maple in its cider-based Old Port Punch.
Maine Lobster Picnic Made Easy with Portable Propane Steamer
Planning a big outdoor, family picnic with lots of Maine lobster? Make outdoor preparation easy and fast with a portable, propane lobster cooker. Working just like a gas grill, the big lobster pot sits outside on a portable burner with stand. The cooker keeps the heat, water and mess outside and away from the kitchen. And most important, it keeps the lobster close to the picnic tables and guests.
A portable cooker easily allows the chef to deftly pop the lobsters in an out and keep them coming for all the hungry guests. Ranging in size from 30 to 50 gallons, the bigger pots can cook up to ten or more medium sized Maine lobsters at a time.
Two Pound Steamed Maine Lobsters
There are many brands to choose from, but the quality lobster-pot set ups come with a stand, propane burner, aluminum pot with ridges and an internal steamer basket. This gives the cook the option of steaming the lobsters or boiling them. The internal basket is a must if you want to prepare hefty amounts of steamer clams, mussels, crabs or crawfish. The cook can also use the basket to make a clambake by adding, lobster, shellfish, potatoes, onions, corn and more.
Cooking Maine Lobster with Portable Gas Burner
A good quality unit with plenty of BTUs will get the water boiling fast and keep it boiling (Don’t skimp on the BTUs unless you have a lot of patience). Here are a few helpful hints:
- Set the unit up away from foot traffic to avoid accidents but close to a water source so you can easily add water as needed.
- Make sure to buy fresh Maine lobster and keep them cool right up until you are ready to cook them. A cooler holding just the lobster with plenty of frozen gel packs and wet newspaper is the best solution. Do not use ice or put them in fresh water. The lobsters will perish immediately in fresh water.
- Fill the pot about 2/3 of the way and add two tablespoons of sea salt per gallon.
Lobster pot with steamer basket and portable gas burner makes outdoor cooking easy.
A word of caution , these portable units are built to hold the weight of all that hot water and the lobsters. Don’t go off and try to put a lobster pot on one of those small portable propane burners or stoves you might use to make an omelet on. The water weight alone will crush it.
If Only You Were Eating at a Lobster Shack in Maine
So. You’d hoped to head to Maine or thereabouts this year, but it’s just not gonna happen, for about a million reasons. It’s OK. Mainers will miss you (eh, maybe) and your tourism dollars (definitely).
You don’t have to be in Maine to live out your lobster roll dreams, though. Buy a few checkered paper plates, melt some butter or break out the tartar sauce (pronounced “TAHTAH” north of New York State) and you’re golden. Besides, lobster prices are at record lows this year. Here are a few ways to eat your heart out like a Mainer. The primary rule? Keep it simple, silly.
Sure, you’ll want a cup of clam chowder (“chowdah”), but that’s not all you’ll crave. In the absence of steamers or whole belly clams, which you should try on your next New England trip, serve steamed clams as an appetizer. They’re as easy as mussels, and decked out with tarragon and fennel, they’re a delightful start to your meal.
If you truly want to conjure the greasy-papered, fresh-breeze, red-and-white-checked experience of a Maine clam shack, there must be lobster rolls. (Don’t also do the whole grilled lobsters below we’re not sadists!) Serve someone a homemade lobster roll once and she’ll love you forever. We’re partial to this recipe, classic as can be, but with optional modern touches like tarragon and parsley. Don’t forget the clutch of chips alongside.
Yes, you can drop the whole lobster in the pot to steam. Of course you can. And it’ll be so good! Serve with plenty of melted butter and see your guests love you even more. But you could also, stay with us here, briefly boil them, then split them open and grill them for the dramatic presentation seen here. To serve alongside? Bread for tearing, soft butter and lots of grilled corn.
We know, we know, it’s a long ingredient list. And it looks “fancy.” But an homage to the classic Maine clambake may be just the thing to make you feel like you’re treating yourself after a tough summer. And honestly, both that romesco and the lemon aioli come together in heartbeats. The rest is just a quick marinade, high heat, and a stovetop grill pan. Yes, you can.
Can you believe that you can have homemade whoopie piesin-hand in 45 minutes? The official state snack of Maine is a snap to make at home. These incorporate a dreamboat peanut butter filling, but it’s a cinch to swap in a marshmallow creme and be in whoopie pie land even faster.
Repeat after us: There are no blueberries like Maine blueberries. Small, bright and sweet in equal measure, they make unbelievable sauces and jams, scones and muffins. But in pie? Blueberry pie, in Maine, warm, with a melting scoop of ice cream as you look out over the water is as quintessential Maine as it gets. If you don’t like blueberry pie… we just don’t understand. (OK, serve cherry pie.) We’ve got a number of hits, but this one is just gorgeous. Welcome to Maine.
It’ll protect you from sauce splashes and stray lobster bits. Lobsters are slippery, especially when dipped in butter. And you’ll be using your hands. If you're eating a soft-shell lobster, just use your hands to crack open the lobster and dig the meat out. But if your lunch comes in a hard shell, it’s time to break out the specialized tools.
True card-carrying Maine lobster pros travel with their own cracker, mallet and gloves for handling so they're always prepared. As a visitor, this won’t be expected of you. At most eateries, along with your bib, you’ll find a claw cracker and the lobster fork by your plate. Think of the claw cracker like a nutcracker. It's meant to split the tough shell open, so you can access the delicious meat inside. The lobster fork is your excavation tool, used to dig inside crevices and hard-to-reach areas so you can devour every last briny morsel.
Getting up close and personal with your meal is a vital element of the Maine experience. Peek into any restaurant or stroll by any shack and you'll see that grabbing a lobster, cracking it open and savoring the rich flavors is a required Maine activity.
Real Maine Lobsters
So where can one obtain the most prized lobsters in the world? Although they are called Maine lobsters, fishermen net this juicy catch all along the northeastern seaboard. Maine lobsters are caught here in the United States from the coast of Canada down as far as South Carolina. The cold, shallow North Atlantic waters off the coast of Maine, Massachusetts, New Brunswick, Novia Scotia, and Prince Edward Island offer lobsters a rocky terrain perfect for breeding, scavenging, and hiding from predators. Still, the most popular place for this most coveted lobster is its namesake. Almost half of all lobsters consumed in the United States are caught directly off the coast of Maine.
Lobsters grow by molting a few times a year, shedding their old shell and growing into a new one. Hard-shell Maine lobsters, lobsters that have fully grown into their shell, are the sturdiest and meatiest lobsters. The meat of a hard-shell Maine lobster is tender, sweet, and can be grilled, broiled, sauted, or even fried. A dip in drawn butter enhances the sweetness and juiciness of the already succulent meat.
Famous Maine Lobster Dishes
Lobster meat is found mixed with mayonnaise in lobster rolls, skewered and grilled along with fresh vegetables, or just eaten right out of the shell with the aid of some crackers, and small fork, and a bib to keep your shirt clean. Famous lobster-based recipes include Lobster Newburg, a mixture of lobster, butter, cream, cognac, eggs, and sherry. Lobster Thermidor is a creamy, cheesy mixture of lobster meat and other rich ingredients.
The popularity of Allagash helped to give Maine’s beer scene national attention. Maine has 77 craft breweries and ranks 5th in the number of craft breweries per capita in America. Astonishingly, over 55 of those breweries opened in the past 10 years. Some of the most popular breweries in Maine are Allagash, Bissell Brothers, Shipyard, and Liquid Riot.
Maine’s soda has a small cult following and it is the official soft drink of Maine. It is flavored with gentian root and is described as being bitter.
Allen’s Coffee Flavored Brandy
Maine’s #1 selling spirit is a brandy that is flavored with coffee beans. It was first made in the 1960s and became popular with fishermen who would add a splash to their coffee to warm them up.
The 5 Best Ways to Eat Lobster Next Time You’re in Maine
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Once known as “the poor man’s chicken” in the early 1800s, lobster is now an expensive delicacy. And if you’ve ever had lobster, then you know that the best lobsters in the world live in the clean, cold waters off the coast of Maine. Every restaurant within a hundred miles of the coast has some form of lobster on its menu, and it’s definitely tough to pick favorites. But below is a list of the best five meals I had over a two-week, lobster-loaded vacation.
1. Lobster Risotto (with bonus scallops)
Photo courtesy of @nicoleargeriou on Instagram
A common way for chefs to use all the lobster possible from their catch, lobster risotto is a creamy, flavorful dish that chefs can put their own personal touches on. My dish was garnished with arugula, and as a bonus, I got a handful of succulent grilled scallops to boot. The steamed lobster cradled in the thick risotto was delicious and the risotto itself was so thick it reminded me of mashed potatoes, but without the heaviness.
2. Lobster Omelette
Photo courtesy of @telnaz on Instagram
The list certainly wouldn’t be complete without a breakfast addition. One morning, we ate at a little breakfast shack and I had a lobster omelette filled with fresh lobster, red peppers, onions, and garnished with chives, and man oh man was it good.
I never would have put lobster on my list of go to breakfast meats, but now it is right up there with sausage and bacon. The subtle saltiness of the lobster and the light fluffy egg of the omelette paired perfectly. Served with a hot cup of coffee at your table on the water and you’ve got a perfect New England breakfast.
3. Seafood Paella
Photo courtesy of @misskaosmer on Instagram
Now you might say this one is cheating because it’s not just lobster, but it was too good for me not to include. This dish was lobster, mussels, shrimp, and scallops served over the classic paella rice, and featured all the great flavors of the Maine coast.
The lobster certainly stole the show with thick, juicy claws, but the mussels made a case for themselves as the main focus too. Now I didn’t forget the shrimp, but if they’re more your speed, check out this recipe for shrimp paella.
4. The Classic Lobster Roll
If you go to Maine and you don’t eat a lobster roll, I’m pretty sure they can arrest you. It’s the classic, go-to lunch for visitor and local alike, and whether you get it at a port-side lobster pound or on the lawn of the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park, it’s sure to be delicious.
The local way is just lettuce, mayo, and fresh claw meat and even if that’s all you get, it’s a real treat. The ones we had used big leaves of romaine lettuce and had caesar side salad to accompany, and a great view in the national park too. If you just can’t get enough lobster in your life and you’re in the area, check out these great places to get a roll too.
5. Fresh, Steamed Whole Lobster
The king of the crop, the jewel of the sea, and the treat of the trip. Of all the ways you could serve lobster, none beat fresh, steamed, whole lobster. There’s something special about cracking open your own claws, pulling the meat from the tail, and dousing all the juicy bites in warm garlic butter. It’s served best with grilled sweet corn, an ice cold beer, and a table full of friends and family.
The Ultimate Lobster Roll in Maine
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Greetings from Maine: Lobsterettes at the Rockland lobster festival in 1952 (Credit: Luis Marden / National Geographic)
What does a lobster fetish look like? Here in Maine, you see the creature on our state license plates, and you can buy it at the corner gas station. Its per pound price gets reported on the news as if it were Apple stock, and our basketball team's mascot is a jacked crustacean. Driving through downtown Portland, you often pass some poor sod waving at traffic in a neon-red lobster suit.
Because lobster gives us meaning. It symbolizes our natural abundance, our connection to the cold, clear Atlantic, and our culinary inventiveness. We thermidor and Newburg it, scampi and bisque it. But, in the end, the thing we do best is deconstruct it--nutcracker and handpick it--reducing it to its most perfect form: the lobster roll.
Recently, at the behest of this magazine, I took it upon myself to conduct a self-styled tour of lobster roll offerings in Vacationland, from seaside shacks to salty local institutions, to indulge in the mysteries of what a friend of mine calls "heaven on bread." For something so universally loved, the lobster roll inspires impassioned argument, right down to its creation myth.
Some claim the lobster roll first popped up on the menu at Perry's in Milford, Connecticut, in the 1920s, as a riff on lobster salad others say no, it was Red's of Wiscasset, Maine, that became the standard-bearer in the 1970s, serving shucked, one-pound lobsters on top-loading hot dog buns, with drawn butter or mayo served in a cup on the side. With its proliferation, the lobster roll has been the subject of countless variations, and depending on the restaurant, you'll hear why it should be made no other way than the way we do it here.
The first issue of import is the bread. Of the two dozen or so sandwiches I downed for this assignment--the paucity of that word sandwich, though accurate, clangs against the glory of the thing itself--I ate lobster piled into hot dog buns, kaiser rolls, croissants, hamburger buns, garlic bread, and hidden-behind the- counter buns from a French bakery. And these came cold, steamed, and toasted. Meanwhile, each purveyor insisted that the delivery system of his choosing was best: the sweetness of the bread complementing the sweetness of the lobster, the toasted hot dog bun creating a textural crunch against the tenderness of the lobster, etc.
The next matter is the meat itself--which meat, how much of it, and how to dress it--and this must count as an eternal debate that will never be adjudicated to anyone's full satisfaction. Most typically, one finds a mix of claw, knuckle, and tail, but proportion is everything, as is the decision to dice/not dice. (Me, I'm partial to hand-pulled.) And then,should the lobster be served naked, lightly frisked with mayo, with drawn butter, with butter and mayo, warm or cold, spritzed with lemon? Should it be mixed with celery, scallions, chives?And when is too much too much--or not enough? Less than a pound of meat seems unsubstantial, but supersized--say, the meat of a pound-and-a-halfer or more--tilts toward gluttony.
Truth be told, all lobster rolls in Maine start at a baseline of being very good and proceed upwards from there. For me, the lobster roll is more than just culinary transcendence or proof that simple food made simply is the most soul-satisfying of all. It is summer itself,the baptismal rite after winter and mud season, a diary of days. All lobster roll outings tend to be little celebrations of one sort or another. Sometimes the story of eating the lobster roll matters more than the minor distinction between this or that sandwich.
For instance, I ate one of my favorite lobster rolls last summer on a spotless, fresh-blown Maine day, boating up the coast from my home in Portland to French Island, where we anchored and swam in the bracing ocean, then carried on for lunch at Dolphin Marina in Harpswell (the roll there was a top-loading hot dog bun, buttered and toasted, lobster meat lightly mayoed, reconjuring an earlier ocean gulp). Another came after a Popham Beach excursion with family and friends, at Five Islands Lobster Co. in Georgetown, a postcard-perfect harbor, where the roll (toasted hot dog bun, no butter) was piled with an embarrassment of picked lobster meat, and we sat at picnic tables on the wharf, watching buoys bob, boats pass, blue sparks shooting off the ocean. I ate at Red's in Wiscasset and Harraseeket in Freeport (cooked fresh off the pier, as basic as it gets), at the Lobster Shack in Cape Elizabeth (dollop of mayo, dusting of paprika), and at J's Oyster and DiMillo's in Portland (lightly mayoed, buttered and grilled bun, a crunchy leaf of lettuce), watching the boats a hundred yards down the pier from our perch at the bar as they delivered the lobster that was then put in our rolls.
Along the way, I learned a few things:
Don't eat too much: One lobster roll with the meat from a one-pound lobster is likely going to leave you craving a little more. In most instances, after consuming another, I regretted my greed.
Don't eat too often: Though the lobster roll is summer, it's also the memory of summer and it gets avidly consumed year-round, especially for those of us with nine more months of other weather. There are those who eat six a month. That's too much. It should be left a more rare, decadent pleasure.
Books and lobster roll joints: Both are not to be judged by their covers. One of my favorite rolls is made at Day's Crabmeat & Lobster, a faded roadside stand on a tidal flat along I-295.